Living with Disability: Your Rights as a Renter
Living with a disability has a unique set of challenges. Renting does not need to be one of them, but it is understandable to have questions. What if the landlord won't approve my requests? What if I have to move again? What will that cost? There are many disabled renters' rights. You don't have to struggle in your apartment, and frankly, your landlord doesn't want you to either. However, if you need an alteration done to your home, it is your responsibility to ask your landlord. The landlord can’t make accommodations (or assume accommodations need to be done) unless you request them.
What are my rights?
Your rights are no different from anyone else's when it comes to renting a home. You have the right to enjoy the premises. That can look a bit different for someone with a disability though. That is where reasonable accommodations come in. These can be grab bars for your shower, an assistance animal, a live-in caregiver – whatever you need to accommodate your disability, and enjoy your home. This is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications
What is a reasonable accommodation? According to HUD,“A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, practices, or services so that a person with a disability will have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common space.”
A reasonable modification is similar but deals with the physical structure of the home. An example of this would be adding a wheelchair accessible ramp. Most landlords should be willing to work with you to ensure you’re happy and comfortable in your apartment. If you are a good tenant, they’ll most likely want to keep you around. There is a bit of work to do on your end though.
Making the request
Technically, you can make your request orally, and you don't always have to have a doctor’s note. However, with something so important, it is recommended that you put everything into writing, and have the doctor’s note to be on the safe side.
- The landlord needs to know what modifications/accommodations you need.
- The landlord does not need to know the nature of your disability. It is up to your to decide if you are comfortable sharing this information. Just be aware that your landlord should never ask about the nature of your disability, as it does not pertain to the request.
What happens if my request is denied?
Before you contact your attorney, there are a couple reasons your reasonable accommodation/modification request might be denied. In these cases your landlord may not be violating disability eviction laws.
A request is not considered reasonable if it creates an undue financial or administrative burden. Or, if it would mean a substantial change in the operations of the building. For example, let's say you need a live-in caregiver, but the caregiver you choose has a felony. If your complex does not allow felons to live on the property, your request may be denied. This is because allowing your caregiver with a felony to live in the unit, would mean a substantial change in operations. If your landlord allows one felon, they have to allow all felons, which he or she reserves the right not to do. Many will try to provide an alternative though. In this case, a caregiver that does not have a criminal record would be considered a reasonable alternative.
Who is responsible for these accommodations?
Once approved, the resident is responsible for all the costs required to make the requested accommodations happen. The resident is also responsible for restoring the home back to its original condition prior to moving out. The landlord’s only role in the process is to approve or deny the request.
Keep your eye out for discrimination. Landlords are not allowed to charge you extra fees as a condition of the accommodation.
Renting with a disability does not have to be a daunting task. If you are a good resident, the landlord will want to work with you. Just keep a few things about the process in mind, know your rights, and you will be just fine.